Well, it has cooled off again right now and we have another cold front forecast to move in later in the week. Most of the trash fish have moved on and the late fall and early winter fish are biting. It's time to pick a good day and get out and catch some fish.
Red drum are still biting fairly well up in the creeks. Speckled trout have shown up pretty well, but there aren't many large ones. Gray trout are in fair numbers at the Ship Channel and Turning Basin at Morehead City.
Fishermen are catching more speckled trout in the sounds and the ocean, but they are mostly smaller trout. The larger trout will readily hit Mirrolures, but 3 inch soft plastics have been the most consistent producers. Gray trout have been reported from Manteo to Southport. Speck rigs and stingsilvers are both producing well. If you use Stingsilvers, replace the standard treble hook with a single hook. You may miss a few fish, but you will be able to easily release any small fish and they should be in better condition. Remember, we have some new gray trout regulations. The absolute minimum size is 12 inches. If any gray trout in your creel is under 14 inches, then you may only have 4. If all the gray trout in your creel are over 14 inches, then you may keep 10.
The striper activity is near incredible at Manns Harbor. Catching 50 to 100 fish in a morning is happening pretty regularly. This is a special management area, with its own season and limits, so verify everything before you go. The NC Division of Marine Fisheries Web Site is at www.ncdmf.net. The Neuse River, near New Bern, has also had some very good striper catches, with much less restrictive regulations and limits. Check the current striper regulations at www.ncdmf.net before you head out fishing.
Surf and Pier
Most of the ocean piers have closed for the season. It would be wise to call ahead before making plans.
Decent numbers of large and puppy drum and some stripers have been caught in the Outer Banks surf. The heavier concentration of drum is from Avon to Cape Point, while the stripers are thickest farther north, around Oregon Inlet.
BLUEFIN TUNAS HAVE ARRIVED. There has already been some excellent bluefin action between Morehead City and Hatteras. The fish are mainly in Raleigh Bay, but some have crossed to the west side of Lookout Shoals. Live Bait, chunking, and trolling are all producing hookups, but live bait has been the hot method for the past week.
Some Fat alberts are still around at Cape Lookout and the surrounding waters. The crowds are almost gone. Choose your favorite fly, spinning or casting gear, get a bait in front of them, move it quickly, and hang on. If you want to try this, get going. It may end with the next cold front.
There are some gray trout off Morehead City, Wrightsville Beach, and Southport. The larger fish are hitting stingsilvers, but speck rigs are also catching them. Replace the standard treble hook on the Stingsilver, with a single hook. You may miss a few fish, but you can easily remover any fish to be released in good condition.
There have been some good catches of smaller speckled trout along the jetty at Cape Lookout.
Sea mullet and croakers are biting well at places like the Dead Tree Hole and the WOFES.
Large stripers (over 20 pounds) are being caught at Oregon Inlet, Hatteras Inlet, and along the beaches of northern Dare and Currituck Counties.
This is where the kings are right now. There are lots of smaller kings scattered all along the coast, with the bigger kings generally concentrating in Raleigh Bay. One king, that weighed 63 pounds has already been caught. Don't be too surprised if you have a bluefin encounter and get spooled. They often like the same water and baits as kings.
Sea Bass and grouper are biting well from around 60 feet of water on out. There are some flounder scattered around the artificial reefs in 50 to 80 feet of water.
There are some yellowfin tuna being caught all along the coast, with the best catches being around the Big Rock and at The Point. Last week, Sara Gardner landed a potential 20 pound tippett world record yellowfin tuna off Hatteras. She caught the 53 pound and 4 ounce tuna while fishing with Captain Steve "Creature" Coulter on the Sea Creature. A wahoo or two are also present in most catches and sometimes even a king or two. The yellowfins at The Point have generally been a little larger, with many in the 50 pound range or over.
Potential Record Catches
There is still no word on the two blackfin tuna catches that were submitted to the NCDMF as a potential state record.
A pair of potential state record spadefish have been caught off Southport. One is just a an ounce or two more than the existing record of 8 pounds and 2 ounces and the other is almost a pound larger.
There is also a report of an 8 pound plus Florida pompano, from the Topsail Island surf, that is larger than the current state record.
The certification process for a catch to become a state record involves pictures, positive identification, certified scale verification, and more paperwork, which is not yet complete on any of these fish.
As soon as one of them is certified, I will post it here.